Engaging the services of an interior design company to renovate your home is a huge matter. Unlike buying groceries from the supermarket, hiring an interior designer (ID) costs a lot of money and leads to a multi-month working relationship.
If you are looking to spruce up your apartment or is moving into a new HDB flat, you would expect your ID to work closely with you to achieve the best look for your home.
Unfortunately, we’ve all read about horror stories online or heard from our friends about IDs (sometimes with their contractors) disappear into mid-air while renovations are only half done. Interior design companies have also been known to overcharge customers, deliver shabby work, or drag the project for months.
As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Beyond knowing your rights as a consumer, here are 7 ways to protect yourself from errant interior design companies.
#1 Research The Company First
Before engaging the services of an interior design company, always google the company and read the reviews of past customers. If you personally know anyone who has used the services of said company, seek their opinions and find out from them how was their experience like. Were IDs prompt in replying to messages? Were contractors co-operative to requests? How was the quality of work?
Furthermore, ensure that the company you are planning to engage is registered under ACRA. The ACRA is the national regulator of business entities, public accountants, and corporate service providers in Singapore. As a consumer, you’ll be able to verify information about the interior design company and its owners. This also gives you the assurance that the company is legitimate, and if things go south, you’ll have more information to lodge a police report.
For your ease of mind, consider seeking out CaseTrust accredited interior design companies. CaseTrust is Singapore’s de facto standard for companies who wish to demonstrate their commitment to fair trading and transparency to consumers. Since its inception in 1999, they have been working together with many companies to raise industry standards.
If you wish to go one step further, you might want to check if the firm you intend to hire is a HDB Registered Renovation Contractor or registered with the Building And Construction Authority. While being registered with these two government bodies is no guarantee of good performance, you know at the firm have at least met some minimum standards.
Finally, if necessary, compare prices between different interior companies and meet IDs from different companies to discuss your plan and see what works best for you.
#2 Ask Everything In Black And White And Document Everything
From quotations to official documents and invoices, insist on obtaining a hard copy from your ID and the contractors. Try to keep all conversations on text instead of calls, where there is no black and white proof if misunderstandings were to arise in the future.
By having official documents, you can stand up for yourself if a court case against the interior design company were to happen in the future.
#3 Don’t Buy Renovation Packages Way In Advance
It is not uncommon for interior design companies at roadshows to hard-sell renovation packages way in advance so that they can secure you as a customer.
Selling packages way in advance might also suggest a higher chance that the company might not honour the agreement as they could close the company a few weeks or months later.
At roadshows, do not buy expensive packages for a renovation you know will take place many months or even years later. This means avoiding engaging the services of interior design companies if you have not even confirmed you have successfully balloted for a house yet.
Do not be swayed by any offerings of free gifts. If the deal or quotation sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t.
#4 Never Pay The Full Amount Upfront
We have all heard horror stories of enthusiastic IDs trying to promote packages, but once payment is made, they disappear into thin air along with the contractors.
To avoid the heartbreak of parting with tens of thousands of dollars, discuss an installment scheme with the ID where partial payments are made each time a portion of renovations are completed.
Another benefit of paying in installments is that you can gauge if you are happy with the renovations done thus far. This means finding out if the quality of materials used and workmanship is up to your standards. If the quality is way below your standards to what was promised by the company, you won’t feel as bad since full payment has not been made.
You can also refuse to pay the remaining amount until the ID and the contractors do a proper job of what they promised.
#5 Ask To View Completed Works First
If you know anyone who has engaged the services of the same company and same ID you are planning to use, ask if you can view their home. You will be able to get a sense of the quality of materials used, the standard of work, and the style of the ID. Seek the opinions of the homeowners on their experience dealing with said company and ID. First-hand recommendations from the horse’s mouth are always the most reliable.
If the ID shares the same style as what you were looking for, it will be easier to communicate your thoughts as they will know exactly what you mean when you want something. It will also be easier to build rapport as they know what will be best for your home.
#6 Ask For Constant Updates From Your Interior Designer And Contractors
On your part, make the effort to constantly text your ID and contractors for updates. This means finding out which day they are coming to do works in your house, or how is the progress of renovations.
Sometimes, they might get busy, so a friendly reminder on your end can give yourself peace of mind.
#7 Check For Defects After Works Are Completed
Once works are done and you are waiting to make the final payment, check that there are no major or minor defects, such as cracked walls, leaking pipes, or peeling paint. Once you spot a defect, raise it to the ID’s attention immediately and insist on the work to be redone.
It can be difficult to claim compensation once the full amount is paid and the works are deemed to be completed by both parties. To protect yourself, always check before closing the case with your ID.
If you have paid the full amount and realised works were not satisfactory, seek assistance from the small claims tribunal courts. The Small Claims Tribunal provide a quick and inexpensive forum for the resolution of small claims not exceeding $10,000 between consumers and suppliers. This limit can be raised to $20,000 if both parties agree to it and file a Memorandum of Consent online.